Knight Foundation names 27 winning ideas in 2016 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge

ST. PAUL, MINN. –  Oct. 11, 2016 – From a snowblower ballet, to a theatrical extravaganza in the St. Paul Saints ballpark, to mobile art carts on the streets, 27 winning ideas will bring high-quality cultural experiences to St. Paul neighborhoods with funding from the Knight Arts Challenge.

A program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching St. Paul through the arts. All of the winners answered the question, “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?”

“Whether you are in Lowertown, Rondo or the Creative Enterprise Zone, we want residents and visitors alike to experience art,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation, who announced the projects Tuesday night at the J.J. Hill Library.  “Knight Arts Challenge winners help make that possible. In them, you’ll find a range of voices and neighborhoods, and projects that delight, challenge and inspire us to think differently about the city and our lives.”

With challenge funding, the 2016 winning ideas will:

Engage audiences in new ways — by mixing art and boxing for a new type of performance, celebrating the coexistence of arts, sports and politics through site-specific theater on the St. Paul Saints’ CHS Field, and performing the stories of marginalized communities in the spaces on which the stories are based;

Include a wide range of voices and neighborhoods — through Haitian dance and drumming, a cross-cultural celebration of East Africans, a Latino festival, monthly cabarets exploring issues Asian-American women face, a showcase of Indian culture from the classical to Bollywood, and an Arab cinema festival in neighborhoods throughout St. Paul;

Use art to bring surprise and whimsy to everyday life —including a snowblower ballet, a concert series in Frogtown garages, mobile carts that artists can borrow to bring art to the streets of Lowertown, and pop-up taiko drumming events that mix art and food.

The full list of the projects, which will share $862,633, is below and at

The Knight Arts Challenge has only three rules for applying: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit St. Paul; 3) Winners must raise matching funds in order to receive their grants.

The challenge is part of an $8 million arts investment in St. Paul that Knight Foundation announced in January 2014, which includes funding for the challenge, which supports smaller, grassroots ideas, and for anchor arts institutions, so that they can more deeply engage the public. This marks the third year of the three-year challenge. Knight Foundation will continue to fund the arts in St. Paul, with more information coming in early 2017. Knight Foundation has invested $74 million in St. Paul since 1977.

“St. Paul is experiencing significant cultural and economic growth, and Knight Arts Challenge projects are ensuring that the arts are a central part of that,” Rogers said. “Over the past three years, they have added tremendous energy and vitality to the city.”

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit



Kathy Graves, Parenteau Graves, 612-242-3184, [email protected]

Marika Lynch, Knight Foundation Communications Consultant, [email protected], 305-908-2677

Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul Winning Ideas 2016

Project: Afoutayi eighth annual Haitian Dance, Music and Arts Festival
Applicant: Afoutayi Dance, Music and Arts Company
To celebrate and build understanding of Haitian culture through dance and drumming workshops, performances and community gatherings

Project: Light Up the Night Market!
Applicant: Asian Economic Development Association
To feature Asian-American artists at the Little Mekong Night Market with a gallery of original poster art reflecting Asian-American community life

Project: Wilder Gateway
Applicant: Brad Kaspari
To build a sculptural gateway for Wilder Playground that welcomes visitors and serves as a public art learning site for nearby City Academy High School

Project: Blessing the Boats
Applicant: Cedarside
To highlight the work of immigrant artists with Blessing the Boats, a cross-cultural celebration of East Africans and others new to the United States that will offer participatory theater, photography, film and other genres

Project: CLUES Fiesta Latina
Applicant: Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES)
To celebrate the diverse art and culture of Latinos in Minnesota through a festival of music, dance, murals, photography and folkloric traditions during Latino Heritage Month

Project: Frogtown Garage Concert Series
Applicant: Frogtown Neighborhood Association
To shine a spotlight on Frogtown’s diverse music scene and build community through a series of garage concerts that connect neighbors, artists and music lovers

Project: Empowering Asian Women Through Comedy
Applicant: Funny Asian Women…K (FAWK)
To host monthly comedy cabarets to talk about difficult issues Asian-American women encounter every day in Minnesota

Project: Stories That Unite
Applicant: Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota
To illuminate the stories of East Africans by uniting youth from Skyline Tower and Gordon Parks High School to create short documentary films

Project: IndiaFest 2017
Applicant: India Association of Minnesota
To showcase the experience of India through a one-day festival of music, movement and mudras, ranging from classical traditions to today’s boot-stomping Bollywood

Project: Emerging Curators Fellowship
Applicant: Jehra Patrick
To establish and build the individual practices of emerging curators from diverse backgrounds through a yearlong research, professional development and presentation fellowship

Project: Hmong Murals on Fourth Street
Applicant: Minnesota Museum of American Art
To showcase how Hmong textile traditions have found resonance in contemporary forms and urban spaces through murals created by Australian artist Vanghoua Anthony Vue

Project: Safe at Home
Applicant: Mixed Blood Theatre
To celebrate the coexistence of arts, sports, politics and commerce through a site-specific theatrical extravaganza produced at the St. Paul Saints’ CHS Field

Project: Arab Film Fest: The St. Paul Edition
Applicant: Mizna
To counter anti-Arab and anti-Muslim perceptions through independent Arab cinema, brought to five St. Paul college campuses and their surrounding neighborhoods

Project: Space 369 (II)
Applicant: Nathanael Flink
To highlight local and regional artists at Space 369, an alternative, artist-run gallery in the Creative Enterprise Zone

Project: Hamline-Midway Historical Retrospective Murals
Applicant: Nick Mamayek and Wes Winship
To bring beauty and pride to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood through a historical retrospective of outdoor murals on a blighted building undergoing renovation

Project: St. Paul Snowblower Ballet
Applicant: Richard Chin
To transform the dreary toil of snow removal into joyful art with a ballet in which performers, equipped with snowblowers and shovels, stage a dance spectacle set to live music

Project: The Art of Boxing, the Sport of Ballet
Applicant: St. Paul Ballet
To bring together the worlds of boxing and ballet with a performance that features professionals from both disciplines in two acts, under one roof, with a live feed outdoors for the entire community.

Project: C/Art: Lowertown
Applicant: Springboard for the Arts
To bring more art to the growing street-level crowds in Lowertown through mobile art platforms that artists can borrow and operate as pop-up galleries and performance spaces.

Project: The Sex Show
Applicant: Sun Mee Chomet
To explore sexuality and stereotypes in the Asian-American community with a new play

Project: Taiko Tuesdays
Applicant: TaikoArts Midwest
To expand the impact and accessibility of taiko, the ensemble drumming rooted in Japanese traditions, with a monthly series of free pop-up concerts throughout St. Paul

Project: Musique et Masqueray
Applicant: The Rose Ensemble
To commemorate St. Paul’s connection with the French architect Emmanuel Masqueray through world-class concerts presented in two of the churches he designed, which will be accompanied by visual exhibits

Project: Celebrating Central High’s 150th Anniversary Through Photography
Applicant: Transforming Central
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Minnesota’s oldest high school by having artist Chris Faust take photographs of Central High School’s community, which will be displayed alongside similar historic images for an outdoor art exhibit

Project: St. Paul Youth Poet Laureate
Applicant: TruArtSpeaks
To amplify the voices of young writers through a youth poet laureate program that publishes their work, invites them to participate in civic activities throughout the year and provides a platform for modeling leadership through critical thought, voice and performance

Project: Our Space Is Spoken For
Applicant: Twin Cities Media Alliance
To explore how marginalized communities redefine and negotiate space with a storytelling project where spoken word poets, and performance and visual artists adapt residents’ essays and perform them in the spaces on which the stories are based

Project: ART Is
Applicant: Twin Cities PBS
To showcase the work of emerging artists by engaging exceptional St. Paul artists of color to curate work in the TPT Street Space

Project: WITNESS 2017 – Underground Railroad
Applicant: VocalEssence
To illuminate St. Paul’s historic role as a sanctuary for the oppressed by raising up immigrant voices, past and present, through workshops and concerts

Project: Crocus Hill: A Ghost Story
Applicant: Zeitgeist
To engage audiences in the tale of a St. Paul Victorian mansion possessed by malevolent spirits through the talents of Zeitgeist composer/flutist Julie Johnson and writer Cheri Johnson